Right now you're being told by magazines and adverts that your body isn't good enough to be on a beach. You're worrying about what you're going to wear on holiday, or the quickest way to improve your appearance before you get on that plane. Aren't you sick of having this mental battle every summer?
I had a conversation with two guys in the gym the other day, who were complaining that their wives were 'harping on' (their words) about joining the gym and going on a crash diet to get that elusive 'bikini body'. Their words echoed in my mind while I struggled through my last few bench presses and by the time I'd finished my workout, I found myself feeling really angry. Not at the guys and what they said about their wives, but at how society makes women feel at this time of year. Every year.
Inadequate. Shameful. Embarrassed.
The worry of what society will say about their bodies was affecting how these ladies, along with thousands of others, felt during the run up to their holiday. This fear was putting a dampener on their excitement, when all they should be thinking about is the satisfaction of turning that 'out-of-office' reply on, packing their bags and getting to the airport on time. Instead, the run up to their holiday is peppered with worries about the size and shape of their bodies, the paleness of their skin, cellulite, and how much flesh is socially acceptable to reveal on a beach full of strangers.
What would you say to an obese man in trunks?
Generally, men don't care about any of this rubbish when they hit the beach and they're much happier and relaxed for it, so why do women care? Spoiler: society tells us that we should. Take the title of this post, I half expect someone to post a photo in response, of an obese woman wearing a bikini and tell me that 'she clearly shouldn't be in a bikini, it's gross and she should cover up'. But let's think about the sexism in this statement. If an obese man was on the beach, would people tell him to cover up with a full wetsuit, instead of wearing trunks like all the other men on the beach? I highly doubt it. Yet with women, the amount of flesh they're 'allowed' to have on show correlates to their weight.
Women purchase magazines that brutally point out which parts of their bodies (or a celebrity's) need fixing with a particular cream, surgical 'correction', 'break through' diet, or 'targeted' workout. Just look at Women's Health June issue - 'The Butt Issue'. I've flipped through just half of this magazine this morning, and honestly, I've never felt so self conscious about a part of my body I can't even see full on without the aid of a mirror! The pages are smothered with butt bashing "tips and advice" on how to craft a behind to look just like some Instagram celebrity I've never heard of.
Something is always apparently too flabby, too skinny, too dimpled, too natural or not smooth enough, not defined enough, not airbrushed enough, just not 'perfect' enough. Embracing these notions of body 'problems' we then head down to the nearest beauty outlet to spend more money on all of the products we're told (by the same magazines!) will solve the problems we probably didn't know we had until we read the magazine. If you lived in a society with no TV adverts and no magazines you probably wouldn't even know what cellulite was.
Self-esteem blasting diets
In much the same way I avoid newspapers whose political agendas scream through their absurd headlines, I will skip past any part of a magazine that features a seven day 'fat blasting' diet or a 'review' of some five figure cosmetic treatment that I'd have to sell a lung to purchase. I also skip past any part that suggests there's a particular exercise to rid fat from particular areas of the body (any good PT will tell you that cannot spot reduce fat!). If any of it really worked, and it really did only take seven days to do so, or whatever ridiculous time frame it suggests, there would be no obesity epidemic.
Making you feel bad is good for business
Cosmetics companies and plastic surgeons all want us to feel insecure so that we surrender our wages to them in the pursuit of looking 'perfect' and magazines act as adverts for all of the above. It comes down to the fact that magazines are a profit making business, and businesses make their success by promoting solutions to people's pain points. A business will sell more products if it aggravates your pain point via the marketing and then promises you a quick fix solution for the problem you've just been told you have. The trouble is, in health and fitness, there are no 'quick fixes'. Good health and fitness requires the right mindset (the hardest part), a balanced diet and plenty of sleep, water and exercise. Not expensive 'detoxes', cosmetic surgery or caffeine-infused creams for your buttocks.
I really don't appreciate being told by magazines that my body is somehow not 'bikini ready' because I haven't subjected myself to laser treatments, juice diets and vibrating plates in the salon. That's just insulting! My body is bikini ready as soon as I buy a bikini, thank you very much.
It's disappointing that magazines do this as there are other parts of magazines I do like. Often they run (arguably hypocritical) features on modern day feminism, body confidence (irony at its best), careers, relationships and actual health issues.
Your body is better than that magazine
The point I'm eventually getting around to making in between rants, is this: our bodies are amazing. If you're healthy and well, then whatever you think is wrong with your body is simply whatever a capitalist society would like you to believe in order to sell you a 'cure' for it.
Some of you reading this have grown small humans inside you, ran marathons, perfected impossible acts of balance in yoga class, and/or lifted weights so heavy that people question whether you're actually a secret superhero in gym clothes (or maybe I just feel like this after a good workout).
Many of you will have scars and stretch marks, each marking an amazing victory of some sort: weight loss, muscle gain, pregnancy, childbirth, maybe even life-saving surgery. Physically, our bodies go through a lot! If they survive and even thrive, well then that's a pretty awesome body if you ask me! So why starve it? Why should you cover it up in shame on a beach?
We need to eat well for health and performance in our hectic lives, not for fast weight loss. We need to work out for strength and even stress relief, not flat stomachs and gaps in between our thighs. We need to relax on our holidays instead of worrying every five minutes about what we look like!
Let's just stop caring about whether we're 'bikini ready'. That's not even a real thing, magazines made it all up to sell you products and diet plans. Even gyms caught on to it in the pursuit of selling memberships in any month of the year that isn't January. It's hot on that beach you know, get your clothes off, put your sun cream on and have fun! It's only for a few days a year after all. Heck, even go to the shops near your hotel wearing just your swimwear, there's nothing more liberating than buying food and sun cream in what is effectively underwear.
This post originally appeared on Beyond The Bathroom Scale, a health and fitness platform for busy women against diets and fads. Throughout our blog, and community we focus on having a healthy lifestyle and a great mindset. We have a whole host of resources, such as the Free 12 Week Transformation Course and The Health Mindset Programme, to help you achieve these.